April 1 – Fee $50 to apply. Receive full consideration for scholarships.
May 30 – Fee $50 to apply + include $250 confirmation fee. Limited scholarships.
July 1 – Fee $50 to apply + include $250 confirmation fee. No scholarships awarded, only loan.
After July 1 – No admission. Apply for Spring.
Spring Semester (starts mid January)
Nov. 1 – Fee $50. Receive full consideration for scholarships.
Nov. 30 – Fee $50 to apply + include $250 confirmation fee. Limited scholarships.
After Nov. 30 – No admission. Apply for Fall.
Associate Director of Admissions
Are you passionate about church planting, revitalization, and center city renewal ministry? Western’s Newbigin Distance Learning Master of Divinity program may be just the option you are looking for.
Newbigin House of Studies is located in San Francisco, an entirely secular city with no religious memory. Learn how this environment will uniquely prepare you to reach the world with the Gospel.
What Makes Western Distinctive?
The emphasis on community sets Western apart from other seminaries offering distance learning. You’ll form relationships with peers and faculty, all of whom are deeply committed to helping nurture you for effective pastoral ministry.
Blended Course Model
Students work together and learn from each other in online and classroom collaboration, shaping a remarkable non-competitive learning culture. Unique to Western’s distance learning program is a combination of face-to-face and online instruction in nearly all courses.
Wants flexibility of organizing his or her own learning schedule
Disciplined, can set aside 30 hours per week to study and participate in an online setting
Prefers to continue in current ministry or home situation
Can travel three times a year for classroom-based intensives on campus in Holland, MI and San Francisco, CA (see Intensives for further info)
“Preparing to enter the mission field in Bangkok, Thailand, it grew more apparent that theological training was necessary for the work of equipping and encouraging leaders of this great city. The question became: could we find a program that would allow me to study AND serve God in Bangkok while training me for Gospel work in the urban context? The WTS/Newbigin-DL MDiv program has been the perfect answer. It deepens my walk with God as it helps me work alongside Bangkok’s leaders to see the Gospel cultivating and flourishing in Thailand. I am being thoroughly enriched and enjoying the direct connection between my work and seminary education.”
My story begins in Eastern Europe behind what was once the “iron curtain.” During college I spent my summers with churches and church leaders in the Czech Republic and Poland, interacting with young adults who were extremely intelligent yet skeptical about the Christian faith.
I loved it. I felt the Lord tugging on me to work someday in a church that catered specifically to thoughtful, skeptical people.
After a few years in other ministry posts, Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, MI hired me as their youth pastor. In the summers I took teams of people to North Philadelphia to help house churches in impoverished neighborhoods. My friends there told me they were praying for someone to start a church in “the belly of the beast”—downtown Philadelphia.
As my wife and I prayed and researched where the Lord might want us, I found that the least likely person to be a Christian in North America is an urban professional in the northeast metro corridor from Boston to D.C.
In 2008, my wife Monica and I moved with our baby, Brennan, into a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Philadelphia. We found it challenging at first because neither of us really considered ourselves “city people.” My wife’s parents were farmers, and her closest neighbors growing up were barely within eyesight.
Another challenge was adjusting to being a Christian in a very post-Christian place. I had to learn how to talk about Christian faith all over again. We began getting to know as many of our neighbors as we could, as well as contacts our friends had given us while we were moving.
This is how Liberti Church started. For seven or eight months we met every other week with a small launch team of believers and non-believers to discuss what a church would look like that made sense for this place. On the off weeks, we basically hung out and got to know each other better.
In the spring of 2009 we began worship services. We were seeing some of our friends become believers, and that helped form the DNA of Liberti—we didn’t use insider language that often happens in churches, but instead we learned not to make assumptions about where people were in their journey.
If you were to visit Liberti church today, you would find it much the same as when we first began. We have grown from 30-40 people to about 700-800 people in two campuses, yet it’s still normal to bring friends who aren’t Christians. In fact, we go to great lengths to guard that environment of hospitality.
We don’t water down the Gospel message, but we do address things that are confusing or objectionable. We always want to remember what it’s like to not believe, and we also want to help people understand how the Christian faith can make very deep sense of their lives.
In 2016 I completed my M.Div. through Western Theological Seminary’s distance learning program in partnership with the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco. It wouldn’t have made sense for me to relocate my family of five to a new city, so the distance learning option was ideal. The marriage of first-rate classic theological reflection with the wisdom of expert ministry practitioners in an urban environment was just what I wanted in an M.Div. program.
My studies have been very formative for me and for Liberti Church. Our whole approach to ministry—to seeing our own city as a mission field—was the vision and theological legacy of Lesslie Newbigin.
Jesus came for the sick. Our church exists for broken/fractured/messy people who need grace. Liberti is like a teaching hospital that not only helps the sick, but sends people out with what they have learned, whether that’s through counseling, gospel ministries, residencies, internships, etc.
Continuing in the strong missional tradition of the RCA, I hope Liberti can be a place that both blesses our own community and encourages the wider church to pursue its mission in the world. —JA
The distance learning program is designed for adults seeking a Master of Divinity degree. Only students admitted into the program are eligible to enroll in courses. Technology is required for distance learning.
Yearly Schedule Overview
WTS-Newbigin Distance Learning Master of Divinity
In mid-August, new students participate in online orientation and learning management system training. Students will work within the program’s learning management system, Canvas, gaining experience with the same tools used in courses, and will begin to develop an online community within the new student cohort.
When new students arrive on campus in October for their first intensive, they receive an additional day of face-to-face orientation.
• Fall Semester: 14 weeks, late August-December. Hybrid courses that blend online and classroom learning include a 5-day on-campus intensive in Holland, MI in mid-October.
• January Term: 3 weeks of online courses; includes one week intensive held in San Francisco, CA.
• Spring Semester: 14 weeks, January-May. Hybrid courses that blend online and classroom learning include a 5-day on-campus intensive in Holland, MI in mid-May.
• Summer Term: 6 weeks, late May-late June, fully online courses.
Western Theological Seminary’s Commencement Service is usually the second Monday in May and falls within the distance learning spring semester on-campus intensive. Graduating seniors participate in Commencement and then finish the rest of the intensive. WTS-Newbigin DL Graduates receive the Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary.
Course Design and Cohort Model
A group or “cohort” of students (15-24 people) are admitted each year and move through the curriculum together. This design fosters a rich learning community providing support to each other over the five years of the program.
Western’s program is designed for asynchronous learning with an occasional real-time chat or conference call. Lectures are downloaded using the Canvas learning system. Discussion forums are a regular part of each course and often students work collaboratively on course assignments. Maintaining regular and consistent participation is important for success in this type of distance program.
Students work most often within the time frame of 1-2 week units. This allows a student to create his or her own schedule for completing assignments while keeping the whole class together within a set time frame for collaborative work.
Each October and May five-day intensives in Holland, MI are held. Students start each day with breakfast together, and the community breaks in the morning for worship and fellowship. Students participate in worship by reading scripture or assisting with the worship liturgy.
The one-week intensives in San Francisco during January terms are specifically for learning about the urban church in context.
Spiritual formation retreats and professional development seminars are woven into the intensives throughout the four-year program.
Lodging and Travel
Lodging and travel to Holland, MI and San Francisco, CA are not included in the cost of the program and are the responsibility of the student.
The seminary will assist in locating housing options for the intensives, but students are responsible for the cost of housing and meals while on campus (other than breakfast).
Textbooks can be purchased from the seminary bookstore.
Formation for Ministry
The Teaching Church supervised ministry experience takes place during years 3 and 4 of the program in the City Church setting in which the student is already engaged. The student will work three-quarters time (approx. 400 hrs in a 14 week semester) in ministry practice and one-quarter time (approx. 15-20 hrs in a semester) in ongoing academic coursework. Integration of the ministry experiences, the coursework, and mentoring from both a seasoned urban pastor and a gifted church planter are strong features of the embedded internship. The two years of the internship will track specific learning outcomes in ministry readiness.